Zephyrhills Schools – 1960s


The Decade of the 1960s at ZHS

1960 | 1961 | 1962 | 1963 | 1964 | 1965 | 1966 | 1967 | 1968 | 1969

The 1960s are synonymous with a time of change in the USA. Events that swirl in our minds as we think of this decade include the Vietnam War, the John F. Kennedy assassination, and social upheaval. In the era of Woodstock, the norms of our way of life were changing.

At ZHS during this decade there is a great deal of normalcy and the impact of change facing the country is gaining some early momentum in this little bedroom community that remained traditional, conservative and protected from most of the traumatic change impacting the country. As the historian looks back through the notes and archives of ZHS in the 1960s, there was a quiet innocence there. The social impact and cultural change of the 1960s appeared to embrace ZHS more in the decade of the 1970s.

There were however, some hints of change. The dramatic events of this ZHS decade included: several phenomenal ZHS state basketball championships in rapid succession, the dawning of the first indoor ZHS gymnasium, christened in 1967; an unprecedented Teacher’s Strike that impacted the school, and two particularly influential school principals who shaped the school.

Basketball was the pride of ZHS throughout the decade of the 1960’s! Champs in 1960 were Norman Weaver, J.W. Wells, Clayton Stokes, Mike McGinnis, Woody Cone, Larry Benjamin, Clyde Bracknell, Sam Gross, Frank Kearse and Coach Jack Wilson. The 1960-61 ZHS Basketball team set 10 new school records and seven individual marks that stayed in the books for a long time. In 1964, the ZHS bulldogs were featured in a TV interview over WEDU Channel 3 and escorted to Tampa by the School Superintendent Chester W. Taylor for the spectacular program on the team—they were the Varsity State Champions, coached by Coach Charles McKinney, ZHS Athletic Director. Perhaps the best summary of the decade’s basketball success is summarized by alumni, Jerry Pricher on his website which capsulizes—Jerry Pricher, the President of the ZHS Student Council in 1969 (who later served as a Zephyrhills teacher for 30 years, said the following about the timeframe)—

I entered first grade at this location (ZHS) in 1957, and graduated in our Gym in 1969. Ray Stewart was Principal at the time, so my roots go deep… I was in elementary school during the first man-into-space launches. We watched outside our classroom and listened on the radio. I was here in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated and was still here later when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were also gunned down.Those were troubling times to be sure, but I always felt safe in this place.

I was here when ZHS won their first state championship in basketball. In fact,under the leadership of Jack Wilson, Chuck McKinney and Morris McHone, our teams went to the state tournament five years out of seven and won three championships. I was here when we finally got our gymnasium.—Jerald Pricher

Listen if you will to the sportscasters of the day as they reported with pride on the phenomenal state championship teams, for example:

  • “Bracknell paced the winners with 17 tallies. McGavern who turned in a beautiful clutch performance had 14, while Gross chipped in with 12. Benjamin…played a a fine defensive game and was a workhorse on the boards.” (in regard to the 1960 game with South Sumter that ZHS won 58-53)
  • “During the past week the Bulldogs added more bones to their collection, defeating St. Leo, Friday, 80-42; Citrus 77-41 and Mulberry 79-68…in the St. Leo game, Mike McGinnis netted 31 points and Jed Wilkinson, leader in rebounds added 17 while Tom Porter added 10 and Ray Bolt added 8.”(1964)
  • “Brant Blessing’s 23-point total led the Bulldogs to their 57-47 win over Mulberry…” (1965)
  • “Wilkinson led scoring with 19 points and 12 rebounds…”(Ocoee Game, 1965)
  • “The Zephyrhills Bulldogs went to a pressing defense and scored 35 points in the third period Friday night to stomp the South Sumter Rebels” (December 23, 1965)
  • “Tom Porter scored 26 points for the Bulldogs”(South Sumter Game of 53-39 in December 1965)

ZHS also had its own Billy The Kid. Billy McGavern was quite a star…in the February 1961 game with Tampa’s King in a score of 76-34. The News reported…

Billy (The Kid) McGavern stepped into the picture in the third period and staged a one-man offensive defense, effected numerous interceptions and drove for the basket like a true professional in racking up seven field goals during the quarter.

Basketball permeated the school culture and spilled over into other institutions. The “Basketball Victory Hop” was popular in 1961. Also in sports history, ZHS brought home the State Baseball Championship again in 1966.

Standouts in regard to school leadership were two principals of long tenure at ZHS. Charles Henderson left ZHS to be the principal at the on-campus school, P.K. Yonge at the University of Florida in 1964 after serving as principal from 1955-57 and again from 1959-1964. He and his successor, shared the distinction as principals of ZHS of having served two terms as principal, not in succession. His successor, Raymond Stewart, came in 1964 from Palmetto High School (with an impressive record as a winning football coach and AP there) and provided strength of leadership that was particularly needed during the late 60s and turbulent 1970s for ZHS. Other significant leaders in education for ZHS during the 1960s included Margaritta C. Witt, who was the Zephyrhills School Board member for 19 years (4 terms)and retired in 1968; as a Zephyrhills resident, she believed it her mission to advocate for ZHS. In 1960, I.A. Krusen had already served 20 years as Chairman of the Pasco County School Trustees. At the 1963 graduation, Principal Henderson paid tribute to Mr.Krusen, pointing out that Mr.Krusen had given diplomas to 23 of the last 24 graduating classes (Mr. Krusen was convalescing from a heart attack he suffered the December before and the students gave Mr. Krusen a standing ovation.)

Social strife was evident and students were aware of the brewing community issues. Just prior to the integration of the schools in 1970, Daniel Pollock, the ZHS Valedictorian of 1968, delivered one of the most eloquent of Valedictorian speeches and discussed a myriad of societal issues. Perhaps most poignant were his open comments about racial issues in his graduations speech:

We newcomers to the world face the responsibility of maintaining the honor of America which includes preserving the motion of the political mechanics of the country, providing for and protecting the general welfare of the people of the United States. Currently we (ZHS) are faced with the unpleasant yet very real threat of a civil war between the races in this country. Before the threat becomes any darker, we of all races must fight to prevent it rather than to prepare for a war…

Another turbulent issue was the Teacher Strike in 1968. Nineteen of the ZHS faculty members walked out in the FEA-induced teacher walk-out and the state legislature and Governor Kirk, fully supported by the Pasco School Superintendent, Chester Taylor, took a hard line approach on their action—declaring it “totally unacceptable,” and revoked their tenure in some cases. At the high school, Eugenia Moshonas, guidance counselor, and James Davis, math teacher came back to honor their contracts while the resignations of six others were accepted. A byproduct was the closing of school for a few days and a plea to the community for certified volunteers to fill in. Mr. Taylor said, “if you have a college degree or some college training in the correct field…you are needed and will be paid $26 per day for your services.”

Popular 60’s culture was evident. At the high school Class Nite celebration in 1968, take offs of the “Smother’s Brothers and Rowan and Martin Laugh In” were featured. And just like the movies and TV of the day, they also were censored: Jannette Dunnigan reports in her School Daze column of 1968, “Would you believe—class night was a success? Of course, it was even though all the censors, we still came out a pretty decent Class Night Program. I hope there weren’t too many hard feelings for you Juniors.” It seemed to be a combination of the Smothers Brothers Show and Rowan and Martin Laugh In, two popular television series with our generation. The school news of the decade does hint at the Vietnam war.

Technology had truly come of age at ZHS.  An AV (audiovisual) supply fee of fifty cents was charged in 1962 and the sports games were broadcast on the local radio station.  Filming of the games even took place in 1968. “All home games of the Zephyrhills football team will be filmed this fall, thanks to a contribution voted Monday night by the Quarterback Club at the year’s first organizational meeting.” –September 5, 1968. The FHA club in May of 1969 had as one of their service projects the collection of articles for the American soldiers serving in Vietnam. “Anyone wishing to donate small, useful articles is asked to bring them to either the home economics building or the main office.”

The popular culture also influenced the Zephilsco (yearbook). Throughout the 1960s, key television celebrities worked with the yearbook vendor to select the coveted ZHS Yearbook King and Queen from among photographs that were sent to them of the nominees. Consider that the following celebrities were selected the yearbook king and queen:

  • 1961, Garry Moore from the Garry Moore Television Show chose Mary Alice Gill and Richard Miles
  • 1962, Henry Morgan from ”I’ve Got A Secret” Fame chose Queen Delores Braxton and King Clyde Bracknell.
  • 1964, Comedian Red Skelton chose Cletia Weaver and John Wintersteen,
  • 1965, Jean Morris from the WFLA TV station’s then popular “Hi-Time” chose Sandy Kirkland and Reggie Brown,
  • 1966—Richard Chamberlain, TV’s Doctor Kildare selected Queen Myra Bialik and King Bill Lyons  
  • 1967, Johnny Carson, Late Night TV Host, chose Joan Thompson and Jim Jefferson,
  • 1968, Steve Spurrier (1967 Heisman Trophy Winner) from UF chose Michele Burke and Riki McGinnis
  • 1969, Comedian Jackie Gleason chose Donna Merrill and Johnny Braxton,
  • 1970, Actor, John Wayne chose Pat Artabasy and Cliff Brown,
  • 1973, Group, “Chicago” chose Essalene Buckins and Jay Linville

Perhaps from this era of drama, one particular ZHS student, Judy Goulding who held the title of Miss Zephyrhills, became a novelist and used the pen name of Ashley Chapel, publishing several books. She was on student, X.L. Garrison’s committee for the 1962 prom decorations and served as Girls State delegate…looking back, one wonders if she wasn’t developing some fodder for her later romance novels, “Sweet Savage” and “Kiss of Satin,” published by McFadden Books and Dell Books.

In the area of curriculum, vocational courses were increasing. At the ZHS DCT banquet in May of 1964, the community was represented by some 21 area Zephyrhills employers who were involved in the vocational educational program…Back Construction Company, Thriftway, Paul’s Richfield Station, Raymond’s Body Shop and many more. A particular standout was the Florida Power company which is mentioned again and again during the decade as the host of events and the facilitator of the Florida Power Writing Contest. ZHS’ first exchange student, Lillian Daccarett from Santiago, Chile, was involved in the school in January of 1963.

Perhaps most noteworthy in regard to changes in academics, was the opening of a separate –Zephyrhills school the newest since 1910. With an enrollment that was growing, there was a need for a separate elementary school. By enrollment day for the 1968-69 school year, the combined Zephyrhills school enrollment was 1636. To accommodate this growth during the decade, the West Zephyrhills school was opened. Superintendent Chester Taylor dedicated the new school on Zephyrhills Founder’s Day with the ZHS Band Director John T.V. Clark directing a program of music as he opened the 24 classroom building which cost $181,000. The new principal was Arleis Ross who had been an Assistant Principal at ZHS.

In regard to music, the ZHS band continued to thrive under the leadership of John T.V. Clark and many awards were documented in the archives. FFA had several musical groups as well. For example in 1964, not only did ….

ZHS FFA take top honors in tractor driving for a superb performance despite a downpour of rain…The Zephyr Plowboys copped top honors in the string band division with members, Jack Vincent, Henry Hill, Dennis Hiott, Tommy Dodd, Jimmy Lindsey, and David Hutchinson” (Jimmy also placed second in the harmonica-playing competition). The FFA musical talent was not only utilized for competition but also as entertainment for the school. Jere Alston reported in her School Daze column on November 14, 1963 that…”We were all very proud of all of…the beautiful homecoming court for 1963…The FFA String Band performed for us and the rest of the program was emceed by Karol Kelly of Radio Station WZRH.

Plays during the decade included: No Boys Allowed in 1961 and several other comedies. The Safety Patrol played an important role, almost as a type of forerunner to ROTC programs which came in the 1980s, PTA celebrations frequently included ceremonies with involvement of the Florida State Highway Patrol and Pasco County Sheriff Department for the presentation of membership badges and honors to the Safety Patrol members. Clubs of the decade are dominated by FFA, FHA, Student Council and a Youth For Christ Bible Club. A club in 1960 known as Kids Against Cancer with Gary Crist as President and Bonnie Reed as VP, worked “to raise money for research on the cause of cancer and to acquaint students and people in Zephyrhills with the work that is being carried on…”

The first graduation in the new gymnasium took place in May of 1967 for a 63-member senior class. The ZHS PTA hosted a spectacular open house at the unveiling of the ZHS gymnasium on January 12, 1967, and allowed parents and community members to tour the locker rooms and complete facility in groups of twenty. There was great pride in the new gymnasium.

Graduations continued to be festive events with proms, senior trips and end-of-the year plays that had become traditions. The Prom theme of 1969 took on the Twilight Zone hype with its title, “Outer Limits.” The 1962 prom was held in the Municipal Auditorium which was the case for all of the 1960’s proms. Senior trips took on new looks—in 1963, the seniors voted to do a camping outing to O’Leno State Park near High Springs. The 1962 Senior trip was featured in a magazine cover—the front cover of the March-April Issue of Atlantic Coast Line Railroad News published in Jacksonville featured a giant photo of the Zephyrhills High and Pasco High Seniors of 1962 standing on the front steps of the Capital in Washington, D.C.—the photo was used to illustrate a “sure sign of spring in Washington, D.C.” as a “typical tour group.” (Noteworthy was the combined senior trip from among the two high school rivals, PHS and ZHS).

As Zephyrhills Schools embarked upon the second consolidation in 1970 with the integration of students, a review of an important school in the Zephyrhills area is reviewed prior to the year by year analysis of the decade. Teacher/Librarian, Celia Anderson, who was writing a book about education at the time of her death shared the following about that time period in Zephyrhills from her own first-hand experiences. Celia was a ZHS graduate in the 1920s and then taught at ZHS and surrounding schools. Her daughter, Dedi Anderson, shared her writings with the author, and they are printed verbatim:

School Integration in Pasco County by Celia Linkey Anderson, ZHS Librarian and 1929 graduate of ZHS

Pre-Integration African-American schools in Pasco County followed the pattern of many one-room schools of earlier days. In West Pasco, Booker T. Washington on Congress Street, covering grades one through eight was larger. Mrs. Ruby Copeland, a teacher in this school, later recalled the lack of materials and comforts. She remembered the old kerosene burner that one day exploded. African-American students could go to a Clearwater African-American High School at their own expense if they chose. Zephyrhills African-American students attended a local school (one-room at the Krusen Quarters) but later were bussed to the Dade City Moore Academy, named after J.D. Moore, an early teacher. Later the school’s name was changed to Moore-Mickens Academy and later still, to O.K. Mickens High School. Now it is called Moore Mickens.

Integration of the two races in Pasco Public Schools went comparatively smoothly. This was in great part due to the efforts of the parents and school personnel. Pasco County was still “small town” in outlook in the sixties, with enough good will on both sides to effect a reasonable transition. Some private schools were opened at this time and a few are still in operation. Yet it can certainly be said that we faced a challenging crisis if not nobly at least creditably.

Professor O.K. Mickens continued as principal of Mickens Middle School after integration and it is believed by many that his influence was one of the major reasons for the smooth transition. He worked tirelessly to help in the crisis, backed by experienced gained from 40 years in the local school system. After his retirement in 1973 he became active in civic affairs, being elected to the Dade City Commission and serving until his death. He served two terms as President of the (now) East Pasco Retired Educators Association), and was a member of the Pasco County Fair Association Board.

As attested to by the then Mayor, Lawrence Puckett, of Dade City at Professor Mickens’ funeral and by fellow educators, former students, and others, he and his wife were important factors in countless lives, assisting and encouraging many to attend college or attain other further education. He was a major influence for good in school, church and community life. Mrs. Christine Mickens, long-time teacher, was appointed to fill his City Commission seat upon his demise and was later elected to the post when the term was over. Mrs. Christine Mickens, after many years of teaching Home Economics in the school system, died in February, 1983.

Photos of the original African-American School in Zephyrhills, which was located on the Krusen property are included as well as a review from information in an interview from community activist/historian, Irene Dobson.

The school was located at Krusen Quarters from 1949-55. Carrie Mae Parker recalled, “My children went to school in an old wooden schoolhouse. It was one room for blacks only from grades one to six. The school was on part of the Krusen’s family pasture. I’m not sure whether he donated the land or not. Later, the school was moved to a larger white school building where the Macedonia Church in Zephyrhills is today. That school had a separation with the first to third grades on one side and the fourth to sixth grades on the other side.” (Cares Bulletin, 2004)

Photos of students were provided by Irene Dobson. Ms. Dobson related that the above group shows the total school population around 1950.

At the Zephyrhills Krusen Quarters School. Back row: Eugene Pickett, Joe Blue, Peter Knight. Front row: Joyce Broxton, unknown teacher, Sara Knight.

Back row: Betty Holmes, Louise Pickett Wilson, unknown girl. Front row: unknown boy, Verdia Mae Jones.

Back row: Bobbie Pickett, unknown teacher, Leroy Williams, unknown boy. Middle row: unknown boy, unknown girl, Leroy Dumas, Margie Parker, unknown boy, Booker T. Robinson. Front row: unknown girl, unknown boy.

Sara Knight, Joyce Broxton, unknown teacher, Eugene Pickett, Joe Blue, Peter Knight.

The African American School located at Krusen Quarters included Bessie Barefield, Principal (who also taught grades 1-3) and Martha L. Lewis, teacher of grades 4-6. Books and supplies were limited. A pot-bellied stove provided the heat and wood from the oak and pine trees in the area supplied the fuel. An outdoor privy in a shed provided the bathroom. An outdoor spigot provided water.

Photo above is displayed at Depot and labeled teachers, however it is believed that this was a group of advisors/volunteers.

Front row: unknown teacher, Mary Etta Holmes, Wilma Blue, Nancy Jones, Mary Alice Stewart. Back row: Lonnie Turner, Bessie Mae Giles, Mattie Holmes.

The Zephyrhills Depot recognized Bessie Barefield, Principal of the African American School in Zephyrhills in 1949. As Ms. Anderson’s synopsis indicated, most African-American students who attended school prior to integration, traveled to Dade City to attend the Moore Academy or O.K. Mickens High School. Photo at left is of Professor J.D. Moore. In the early days of Dade City, education was limited for blacks. At the turn of the century, if black children attended school at all, it was in classes at local churches. There weren’t any permanent schools for blacks in Pasco County. If you were black, the best you could expect was six months of school.

But in the 1900’s a Dade City barber, Arthmus Roberts, initiated the idea of a permanent school for blacks. Roberts, a black man, could hardly read and write, but he realized the importance of education and raised the money to start the first school for blacks. Roberts brought Professor J. D. Moore to Dade City to teach at the school. [The name Arthmus Roberts apparently is incorrect. –jm] Shortly after, Professor O. K. Mickens came to Dade City from Marion County and began teaching as well. He later became principal and named the school Moore Academy, after Professor Moore.

In 1939, Professor Moore donated his property to the county for construction of a new school for blacks. The school was built on Whitehouse which is now Whitehouse Ave and the name Moore Academy was retained.

The Zephyrhills Depot museum has the following song in its archives:

The Integration Song by Nannie H. Borroughs

Sing the Wondrous Love of Justice,

Sine its mercy and its grace,

Let all nations know its power

To bring hope to every face.


1) When we all know Justice,

What a day of rejoicing that will be,

When we all have justice,

We’ll live in peace and harmony.

2) The world knows the blessed Story,

Of the loyalty of the race,

How in war gave its devotion

To defend Old Glory’s place.

3) Justice is the nation’s promise,

It has made in words that burn,

Nothing less will save our country,

Never from her promise turn.

More classrooms for Zephyrhills Needed for Progress in Integration, Zephyrhills News, July 27, 1967

Principals Report 10 Teachers Will Cross Color Line

When complete integration of white and Negro children occurs in Pasco County, the bulk of the Negro school population will come to Zephyrhills. At least that will be the case if the neighborhood school concept is carried out, and the bussing of Negro pupils to Dade City school centers is discontinued.

Yet Zephyrhills does not now have facilities to accommodate a great influx of additional pupils of whatever race; classroom construction has barely managed to keep pace with normal school growth.

For this reason, Pasco County School Board Member, Ted Williams of Land O’ Lakes has expressed hope that when the next school budget is drawn, it will include capital outlay funds to build additional classrooms in Zephyrhills “to keep from transporting Negro children to Dade City,” he said.

Department of Health, Education and Welfare officials from Washington, D.C. are urging the closing of Mickens High School in Dade City and the conversion of that plant into another junior high or elementary school to serve the county seat town.

Williams has stated that he doesn’t think the school board can educationally or economically explain a high school with only 30 members of the seniors class as was the case at Mickens High School last year. If they could, then Land O’Lakes could qualify for one with a student body of approximately 200 pupils, he said.

Faculty Integration–HEW has indicated it demands that at least 34 Negro teachers be integrated into the various schools of the county; the school board has replied that such a figure is impossible—that there are not that many Negro teachers presently. (It is noteworthy that Earnest Abner, Physical Education Teacher and Melvin Dennard, teacher and Assistant Principal at ZHS, and Joyce Snow, Algebra Teacher at ZHS were all individuals that came to the ZHS community through this time frame.


In the 1960s and 1970s, editors of the Zephilsco asked celebrities to select the yearbook King and Queen. Click on an image for a larger picture.

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